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[QUOTE] From Wikipedia and participatory culture: Why fans edit | Paul Thomas | Transformative Works and Cultures

Wikipedia is perhaps the only platform available on which fans can effectively and efficiently broadcast facts about their media objects of interest and receive built-in approval, encouraging them to continue.

Wikipedia and participatory culture: Why fans edit | Paul Thomas | Transformative Works and Cultures

[QUOTE] From Cathy Cupitt, Nothing but Net

It has often struck me that stories are the universal language of Web 2.0, and I think the importance of participatory audiences is the reason why. The giant metanarrative of fan fiction is not unlike the interweaving strands of open source projects such as Wikipedia, or the memes of Anonymous (the self-adopted name of a loose coalition of Internet users organizing and acting anonymously, probably best known for protesting against Scientology) and social networking in general, all of which enable and value multiple points of view.

Cathy Cupitt, Nothing but Net

[LINK] Signal boost: WebCite online citation service needs help

WebCite is a user directed citation tool that allows you to create a static single page snapshot for your online citations. The service is non-profit and has been operational for 10 years, and it’s been used by hundreds of journalists, writers, historians, bloggers and researchers, in personal, professional and academic capacities. Wikipedia relies on WebCite to prevent “link rot”, and fans have used WebCite on (for instance) Fanlore while documenting fannish history. The service can’t access private, locked or password protected content, and it honors “no indexing” commands. In this, it works much like the Internet Archive/WayBack Machine. Unlike with the Internet Archive, though, you can direct WebCite to a specific page at once instead of hoping that one day the Internet Archive will find and crawl the site.

More info about WebCite here: and

WebCite needs to raise development funds, or they’ll have to stop offering citation services at the end of 2013. Their fundraising page is here:

[META] AdaCamp, Wikimania, and Console-ing Passions wrapup, part one: Fanworks as open source cultural goods

This is the first in a series of posts on fandom-related thoughts springing from three conferences I’ve attended in the past month, AdaCamp, WIkimania, and Console-ing Passions. All three consolidated into one great fandom and open source idea extravaganza for me. These after-conference posts come royally late, but I think the time elapsed has helped me clarify my thoughts a bit. I’ll be talking mostly about AdaCamp, although I’ll reference Wikimania and Console-ing Passions a couple of times when relevant. A few quick basics. As Staci Tucker summarized at Fembot,

“AdaCamp is an Ada Initiative unconference focused on increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. The invitation-only event gathered professionals, fans, hobbyists, academics, and activists to build community, discuss issues impacting women across open technology, and strategize ways to inspire positive change and build community resources.”

The Fembot post neatly lays out the basics of AdaCamp, who was there, what was discussed, what was eaten, and so on, so I’ll just refer to that one for all those things and dive straight into some personal reflections on fans and fanworks in open movements. (AdaCamp has a policy of not referring to conference attendees by name without permission, so there will be a lot of “someone said”.) What I took away from all three conferences is that more and more people see strong links between fan communities and communities built around open source and other “open” things. Especially at AdaCamp and Console-ing Passions, I had the pleasure of talking about fandom and open source with many great people engaged in either or both of those communities. I agree with them that it would be very beneficial for both fandom and “open” movements to recognize that they’re both creative communities that have very similar principles, goals, and issues, and that they can help each other solve said issues instead of laboriously re-inventing the wheel. Issues include but are not limited to the lack of women in open source, and the precarious legal position of fanworks. I think it’s important that we start talking about this a bit more loudly. First of all – what is “open” stuff, anyway? There’s plenty of nebulous definitions around, and since adding to them isn’t the purpose of this post, I’ll just mention my personal definition and leave it at that. This is a tad confusing since we talk about open “things” a lot, but “openness” is basically a characteristic of a process. It’s the way things are made or accomplished that makes them open or not. The key aspect of all open processes for me is that they empower people to do things for themselves, because the inner workings of said things are visible, and because people have the tools to change said things and share the results with others. Open processes tend to crystallize into movements of people who see a similar philosophy behind all those open processes, but most people who create things using open processes are either unaware of or uninterested in the philosophical side; they just use open processes because they work. It’s certainly not unheard of to see people who identify as members of fandom or some “open” movement to frame fannish activities like fanwork creation as something that fits in with more famous “open stuff” like open source software. Skud does it here, and the Ada Initiative did so by explicitly inviting fans to AdaCamp. I’ve discussed the concept with many fans and academic colleagues, and it even pops up in a couple of academic works. Still, the idea that it may be correct and useful to frame fanworks as a sort of “open source cultural good” definitely isn’t broadly accepted yet. Lists of open stuff tend to include all sorts of creative works and activities, from software to ways in which people organize themselves to do something collectively. However, most lists of open stuff that I’ve seen – like this one – don’t include any sort of “open” cultural work. The Wikipedia article that lists “open” things that function according to a philosophy similar to the one behind open source has a subsection for “arts and recreation”, but it only has a brief mention of copyright getting in the way and no examples of “open” cultural works. That’s a pretty conspicuous blank in those long lists. It suggests that most human activity has an “open” equivalent these days, except for cultural works. That’s not very desirable: if there’s one thing that’s important enough that it should have a parallel movement of people creating the open equivalent of it, it’s cultural creation. And when you think about it, it’s also not very likely that we would somehow manage to invent an open equivalent for every possible activity except cultural creation. There’s just no way we can fail to invent an “open source” way of making cultural works. I’m firmly on board with the idea that we invented that particular process of cultural creation ages ago, and fanworks are one of its most representative results. Before we start picking apart the relationship between fannish stuff and open source in later posts, let’s go back the beginning and consider why fanworks can be considered part of the same “open” movement that also encompasses more well-known “open stuff” like open source software, open access in academia, and large-scale peer production like on Wikipedia. As mentioned earlier, open processes empower people to do things by exposing how those things work and giving individuals the tools to make changes and feed them back into their communities (whereas in the non-open alternative process, individuals are not allowed or able to make changes). Some examples of open processes are very clear-cut. Open source software is the most famous and uncontested example of open stuff for a reason: it’s pretty eye-catching and easy to understand. Nobody needs to be convinced that it’s empowering to be able to change the technology around you. It obviously works, and it obviously results in useful technological tools, and it’s all (mostly) nice and legal. But I’d argue that fanwork is a great example of open stuff, too. It’s just as empowering to be able to change the culture you live with, to be aware that changing that culture is possible, and to have the tools to do it. People in fan communities know that legitimate culture-making isn’t just about making a perfectly “original” thing and laboriously building an audience for it. It’s also about building on what others have made, about analyzing what’s going on in the media everyone’s watching and making it better, and about feeding those improvements back into the community of people who are also watching that “original” product so they can build on your improvements in turn. And just to get the porn thing out of the way at once: “making it better” includes everything from writing critical meta about social issues in a show to creating the sex and relationships-focused content that the source book or film doesn’t provide. For very many people, adding more shipping and more porn about their favorite characters is really, truly one the big thing that makes their favorite media better – more fun, more meaningful, and easier to share and enjoy with others. In the next post, I’ll consider what fan communities might have to offer to open source communities and vice versa.

[META] Just in time for Christmas

As of this week, Fanlore is out of its beta testing phase.

This is an online encyclopedia, a wiki, which is one of the projects of the Organization for Transformative Works. It’s intended to document the history of fan communities and fan cultures. Right now, its main page says it contains more than 13,000 articles edited by more than 2,800 volunteer users.

As anyone familiar with Wikipedia, the wildly famous and enormous online encyclopedia knows, the distinctive feature of a wiki is that anyone can choose to log in and edit or add or create. Which can mean that such depositories of knowledge grow rather haphazardly, according to the interests of their users and not according to a plan or a taxonomy.

My college students are always rather puzzled that so many of their instructors don’t let them use Wikipedia as a source for papers, the thought being that the voluntary and amateur nature of the information makes it less reliable. But I have been reading that in general, Wikipedia is now considered by scholars who study it to be rather accurate. Over time, it indeed has been self correcting and stabilizing. Probably in a few years academia will lose its suspicion of Wikipedia and allow it as a source for student papers, just as it would any other encyclopedia.

One feature of Fanlore that definitely distinguishes it from the Wikipedia model is its position on what it calls “plural points of view.”

Fanlore is not and is not intended to be a neutral, objective (whatever that means in this postmodern, post-journalistic age!) compilation and description of fan activities.

This has puzzled and even offended some readers of my acquaintance.

Unlike Wikipedia, which advocates neutrality in its articles (achieved imperfectly and to the best of the authors’ ability, of course), Fanlore “contends that all interpretations or experiences are of interest and should be written down. It’s a ‘live and let live’ policy for ideas….”

At its best, this policy is intended to result in “a fan-positive, balanced synthesis of multiple points of view that fans may have on a single topic. It acknowledges and reflects these potentially dissenting perspectives and does not privilege one fannish viewpoint over any other.”

Because of this, Fanlore depends more, perhaps, than a wiki with a neutral point of view policy, on the participation of many and diverse fans, so that many points of view about a specific fandom will be represented.

It seems to me that it’s a positive in that it sets the bar to participation low, which, hopefully, will mean more writers and contributors. It absolves contributors of the obligation to do a lot of research and try to understand the full scope of the fandom they’re writing about. Contributing writers can include their own personal experience, their point of view, and simply add it to the material that’s already there. No need for bending over backwards to be fair to a ‘ship you hate, or to be unbiased about a particular fandom controversy. Someone from the “other side” of those issues will show up sooner or later to give their position its due, in any given article.

But I confess that, as a reader used to a more traditional, perhaps old-fashioned, belief in objectivity as a goal, this plural point of view approach seemed very strange to me when I first encountered it!

In short, according to the Fanlore explanation, “Fanlore is not a traditional encyclopedia that strives to establish a single account of events (as in “Neutral Point of View”). In addition to bare facts, we acknowledge that the history of fandom is a collection of personal experiences and interpretations, many of them only passed along as part of an oral tradition. Because of this, those multiple experiences and opinions are important, and we want to collect and document them as part of our fact set.”

Congratulations, Fanlore, on reaching this important developmental milestone!